FLASH: Blacks and Latinos hesitate to join marijuana industry
As marijuana becomes legal in more parts of the country, employers are finding a significant lack of participation from demographics who say they may have been (were) unfairly targeted by police during the war on drugs.
Studies suggest Blacks and Latinos are at least 4X as likely to be arrested for weed and other drugs than Whites. For them, the idea of interacting with the government is more intimidating than a back alley drug deal.
“They are scared of the government, Man,” says cannabis activist Sieh Samura. “This is still a new thing. And there’s taxes. There is the government. There’s all kinds of things, you know.”
When Massachusetts legalized weed in December 2016, lawmakers wrote up the nation’s first Social Equity Program in order to give minorities a leg up in the industry.
In the city of Somerville, a full 50% of recreational marijuana licenses are earmarked for Black and Latino applicants.
“We want to make sure that everyone has a real authentic opportunity to participate in that economy in the future,” said Somerville’s Mayor, Joe Curtatone. “If not, we start to lose the fabric and soul of our community.”
In Milford, cannabis company Sira Naturals is hosting a 12-week workshop designed to help people of color get into the industry – especially those with experience.
“We see our program…as sort of offering a hand to those who’ve been operating – and have skill and passion and dedication to cannabis products – in the illicit marketplace, to come to the regulated side, to get on the books and help facilitate the start of their businesses,” says Sira Naturals CEO Mike Dundas.
The company plans to open a recreational shop in Somerville with the help of entrepreneurs who attended the workshop.
Have a terrific week.